The Other Victims at Virginia Tech
In all of the prayers being lifted up for the students, families, faculty and staff of Virginia Tech please remember the other victims of the tragedy, the police officers who charged the building and those that had to work the crime scene in the classrooms in Norris Hall.
Some of these officers ran into a building echoing with a steady stream of gunshots and panic. Was there one gunman or two? Were they being drawn in only to be ambushed? Who runs toward a man with a gun? They did! They went toward the danger, not away from it. Why? Why did they do something like that? Because they had sworn to protect others.
These officers gave their best effort, despite the claims of others. Any one of them would have willingly died where he/she stood, if it meant the killing of those kids would stop. They entered to find not only there was no one to help, but there was no one to bring to justice for this carnage. Instead, they stepped over and around children and more children, for hours, doubtlessly looking for someone, anyone they could help, rescue, save. Oh, and by the way, they won't need any help second-guessing the “what” and “how” of that day. Their minds will struggle with the "what ifs" long after the "experts" have moved on to the next opportunity to pontificate about - "well, what I would have done was..."
Other officers had to process the carnage as a crime scene, meaning they had to be in those classrooms for hours, viewing and documenting the horror in graphic detail – pictures, measurements, shell casings and defensive wounds, all without "disturbing" (much less reverently tending to) the fallen kids. This went beyond what they had been trained to do, not 2 or 3 victims, but 32. How do you look at the bodies of children - 5, 10, 15, 30 children and keep going?
Every officer that came upon that scene was desperately listening for the sound of muffled tears, cries of pain or a solitary “help me”. Instead, there was silence except for one sound - phones ringing. Actually, the phones of college students don’t ring, as much as there are snippets of music, chirps and tones. Each sound signaling who is on the other end - Mom or Carol or one of a dozen friends from their Facebook page. Each ring these officers heard was a plea - please answer the phone and say you’re okay. How do you stop the ringing of these kid’s cell phones in your ears or flashing back to those images in your mind when the kid in the Kroger gets a call and the jingle is the same.
Please pray because these officers will not have the luxury of burying the sights, sounds, smells and their own tears beneath the tomorrow’s classes or customers or errands, because "getting on with their lives" means going to the next crime scene, and the next, and the next - to run towards the next report of a man with a gun or process the scene of someone else's anger.
These men and women are not robots and not steely characters on some television show. These are men and women who are also brothers, sisters, dads, mothers, uncles and aunts. They have their own kids or love someone else's kids - kids like the seemingly endless parade of victims in that building.
I know parents are grieving, along with siblings, and friends, and people that just hurt when others hurt, and they still need your prayers. But please don't forget these officers. Maybe these officers did not lose a child, or friends, but they saw things you never saw. They had to endure room after room, face after face, do their job and go home.
Oh, and please remember the officer’s families. What do you say to the man or woman beneath the uniform when the room is dark? I don’t know, but your prayers might make that darkness not so dark.